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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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We Can’t Do This Alone

Our One Planet

I have to tell you something. First of all, I just plain loved the conversation we’ve been having about the things we are having a tough time surmounting on our path toward sustainability. Loved it. Thank you thank you thank you all for being open and honest. And I would say that maybe for some of us, admitting it was half the problem? Am I right??! So I hope that it helped. It sure helped me get a few things out in the open so that I can be held accountable. I’m going to work on those things I listed. The cat litter is the toughest, but I’m not giving up!!

There were certainly some patterns in those comments, so I plan to address some of what came up in great detail, to see if we can’t help one another find ways to tackle our next steps. And that brings me to the topic at hand…

We Can’t Do This Alone

I began writing about my journey because I wanted to share what I’ve learned with others, to make it a little easier for them – for you. I’ve found that writing has actually helped me immeasurably as well. I’ve learned as much from you all as you learned from me, if not much more.

When Matt and I were in Geyserville, one of the things we realized is how important community is in our lives, and in living a sustainable life. We need one another. We can’t do everything ourselves.

Alan wrote the other day:

For me the biggest challenge is getting past the idea that I can do it all myself. Sustainability has to be a community effort. There are things I can do that others in my community can’t and things that they can do that I can’t. Building that network is Key.

This is the conclusion that Matt and I came to as well: sustainability is not the same as self-sufficiency. Truly, we don’t have to be completely self-sufficient – we don’t have to do everything – we just have to do our part in society. Making our community stronger makes our family more resilient and adaptable. We can be more sustainable when we all work together.

But there are even greater benefits. We work on building our communities – both online and at large – not just because we need our communities to be strong so that we can adapt to a changing world. But also, so that we can bring new people into a level of awareness that leads to a sustainable existence.

The whole world needs to live sustainably in order to preserve our planet. Not just me, not just you, not just our families and friends, but everyone we know, and everyone they know, and so on… across the entire planet.

Relevant Sustainability

A year ago I didn’t own Baggalinis, two years ago I showered every day, three years ago I wasn’t eating seasonally or locally, four years ago I had lived in a city for 10 years without once riding public transportation, five years ago I was working on films with hundreds of lights where each one of those lights used more electricity than my entire apartment does now. Six years ago, I dyed my hair with horrible chemicals (and five years ago, and four years ago, and three years ago, and two even).

Every year I make great strides. Every year I learn more. Just a year and a half ago I grew fruits and vegetables from seeds for the first time, and now I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve done it – too many to count.

Almost all of us were sustainability babies once. Some of us still are. And most of the people around us are.

But guess what? We can’t do this alone. We need them. We need the people who aren’t living sustainably to start doing so.

And so we have to bring them in. Nicely, respectfully – remembering that we were there once, too. That every change is relative. Just as babies grow and learn differently, so do adults. Some people arrive here early in life, others come much later. Some are faster at change, and some are slower.

We are all at different levels here. And we are all at different levels in the world at large. What we must do – must, must, must – is to put aside our judgments. Embrace what we can in others, and bring them into our worlds. Teach them, inspire them, and respectfully change their thinking.

It requires patience. It requires working hard at it. It requires putting our egos aside.

But our planet is in peril. Our world is in peril. There is a lot that we must change as soon as we can – sooner, really. So we must do this now.

Discuss vs. Lecture, Show vs. Tell

There is a saying in the film world: “show don’t tell.” We don’t want to be told what to do. We want to be inspired, moved, and shown the merit of changing our ways. We must believe in the change ourselves or it will not happen.

Shame doesn’t work. Intolerance doesn’t work. Lecturing doesn’t work. Proven time and time again, these don’t work. What works are human stories, human emotions, human love and respect and inspiration.

There have been a few comments and emails here lately about posts discussing ideas that are “too easy.” I would challenge each of you to rethink this notion every time it comes to mind. Because what is too easy to you may be incredibly difficult for someone else, and vice versa. I may have a great deal of gardening experience (I can’t remember when I didn’t grow something, though it wasn’t always edible). But I am new – green – when it comes to baking and sewing, things that come natural to many of you.

What I love about this community is its diversity. And the strength of this community is that we all have the same central goals: to lower our impact on the planet, to make changes we want and need to make, to live a simple, healthy, green, frugal, and sustainable life.

Let’s use that to our advantage. The world is headed in the wrong direction, and we need to get it going in the right direction. So I will ask each of you to offer your support and expertise, so that others can use it to move to their next level of change.

Nobody is perfect, nobody knows everything. But together, we are almost completely perfect and we know a whole heck of a lot.

So let’s change the world one person at a time. Both online and in our neighborhoods. Together.

Our One Planet

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15 comments to We Can’t Do This Alone

  • What a great post! There is so much lecturing and finger pointing out there its nice to see something more positive – thanks! A slightly more realistic thought too – not everyone is ready, willing or able yet to live sustainably but we can lead by example and encourage (not nag) others to follow suit.

  • I so agree with you.

    As I started leaving a comment (this is my third version) I realized that I really need to write a post that’s been bouncing around in my brain. I’ve been thinking about the word tolerance a lot. It’s not a word I’ve really liked because there is something grudging about it, but it’s growing on me. Basically, I think we need tolerance to build community.

  • What a beautiful and insightful post. You have put into words all the ideas that scatter around my brain. You are so right, we can do it alone but that way we isolate ourselves from new ideas – and it can become so lonely and dare I say it – boring, Margaret

  • monica

    If this was easy, no one would have to rethink how we do things. Just think what will be considered “un-green” in 10 years? 20 years? If it was easy to do, we would have been doing it all along. Our capitalist society of everyone needing to have certain things is coming to an end.

    I am so glad to have a resource such as your site to check my own ideals of what is truly important.

  • Well said, Melinda. This is timely for me as I was just proofreading the next newsletter I distribute to my little community of about 30-40 neighbors. Since I have been writing for about a year, I find I am pushing some themes stronger right now. I think it is to keep myself interested and because I don’t want my passion for this to stagnate. But, your post reminds me to avoid lecturing and to use what works . . .human stories, human emotions, human love and respect and inspiration.

    I think I need to re-read some of the drafts for the upcoming issues. (I have written rough outlines, etc. for some months in advance) I suspect I will be dropping some bits and adding more community stories (as I had in the first issues). Thanks so much.

  • Speaking of cat littler, have you heard of the CatGenie? It caught my eye in a catalog at work the other day. My first instinct was to laugh, and I still feel that urge, but it might be worth looking in to. It supposedly uses washable, permanent litter and “flushes” the waste so you can dispose of that separately. I’m not sure if there are chemicals or other waste involved. I clicked on the “greenest” link and read a little bit. I’m not convinced that it is very practical, just something to check out anyway.

  • Kate

    Great post so true. I don’t think we are meant to do it alone, we need to work together in groups, I agree it’s very important to remember that not everyone is at the same place as us. I find some websites and blogs probably have some really great info that I could use, but the tone of the writing puts me off, it makes me feel as though I’m not doing enough, not good enough or sometimes even as though I don’t care enough. Thankfully not your site though.

    cheers Kate

  • Very timely post! I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how some people have gone as far as to give up toilet paper to avoid polluting with disposable products. I’m hoping it sparked interest in change, rather than just gossip about how weird I am. I especially hope that they didn’t feel condemned when I joked that if they keep using paper plates for every meal, I’d come over and steal their toilet paper. ;)

  • So true.

    And community is all about learning from each other too. I’ve learned so much – but I still have a long way to go.

    Still, it’s good to know I’m on a good path – even if can still see people a long way ahead of me in the distance.

  • Your comments always make me happy – knowing there are good people out there, working on making our world a better place!!

    catalan gardener, so very true!

    Deb G, I look forward to reading that! We do. I think your “tolerance” is my “compassion.” It’s that ability to look beyond what is right in front of you, to see the good in people, to have hope in their growth and their core.

    Margaret, Your comment made me smile out loud. Thank you.

    monica, Your comment made my smile larger. : ) Thank you, thank you!

    katecontinued, I am starting to sound sappy now, but your post really touched my heart. I’m glad I could help somehow.

    Jena, I have come across it, but haven’t investigated it. Thanks for the push to really take a look!

    Kate, I try! Good to hear.

    Amanda, LOL you are too funny! What was the look on their faces when you said the last part?! : ) You know, in marketing the goal is always to get people to talk about a product or an idea. Because once people start talking about it, their idea of “normal” slowly starts to change. I’d say even if they thought you were a little nuts, it’s a good thing to get them thinking and talking about it!

    Daharja, Exactly. : )

  • [...] I wrote a bit about it a while back: How Do You Get People To Change Their Lifestyles? In that post, I took a more academic approach of thinking about the stages of change and how you generate behavioral change.  I also touched on it when writing Sustainability Begins At Home, because sometimes change really comes from within and spreads outward in due time.   Plus I’ve written about the importance of us all doing this with our friends in We Can’t Do This Alone. [...]

  • I honestly enjoyed this post. We (as a community), appreciate it. I own a very similar blog on this subject. Do you mind if I link to this write-up on my web page?

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